This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Drug creating generation of 'meth babies (Georgia)

They lay on mattresses, surrounded by overflowing ashtrays. They forage for food and clean clothing amid squalid, often toxic, conditions. They eat sheetrock. They are "meth babies," an ever-growing faction of children whose parents have forsaken them for


"We’ve taken children from meth," said Morgan County Department of Family and Children’s Services Director Sandra Moss. "We’ve dealt with quite a few families that have meth users."

During a region-wide DFCS meeting held last Friday, Moss said Rockdale County DFCS Director Juanita Blount-Clark claimed that 59 children had been pulled out of their homes since July, and over 90 percent of those extractions were meth-related.

"That’s coming our way," she said. "It’s getting worse here every day."

According to Morgan County DFCS Social Service Supervisor Benita Watkins, Morgan County DFCS has removed 24 children from homes due to meth-related charges since November 2004. The year before, they removed 22.

Watkins estimated that 42 percent of all children placed in foster care and 53 percent of all out-of-home placements were meth-related.

"I destroy homes, I tear families apart/ I take your children, and that’s just a start"–a poem entitled "Crystal Meth Speaks," by an anonymous meth user

According to Newsweek magazine, meth lab seizures in Georgia have increased 383 percent from 2000. In Atlanta, meth-related emergency room visits have increased 170 percent. And like the urban sprawl that has taken over the aforementioned Conyers, officials said the problem of methamphetamine, and the subsequent effect the drug has on children of users, is beginning to develop in Morgan County.

"I think people have their heads in the sand," Moss said. "We’re just going to be seeing it grow. It’s growing everywhere else. It’s going to grow here."

Cady Thiel, an investigator with Morgan County DFCS, said users often are so preoccupied with acquiring more meth that everything– including their children’s welfare– fall by the wayside.

"They cannot meet the children’s needs," Thiel said. "They will leave their child anywhere, with anyone, or alone."

Moss recalled the story of three young children in Oklahoma who were discovered by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Their parents were both meth users.

"The children were actually eating the plaster off the wall they were so hungry, and the parents were in the house but they were so oblivious," Moss said.

The oldest child, a 6-year-old boy, was given a hamburger when he and his siblings arrived at a shelter. The young boy broke it into thirds and disseminated it among his siblings. Until the three children were taken into state custody, he had been their primary caretaker.

"Meth just takes over the person’s soul, it seems to me," Thiel said. "They have nothing left for anything else."

"I take kids from parents and parents from kids/ turn you from God and even your friends"– "Crystal Meth Speaks"

Methamphetamine is intensely addictive, with many longtime users becoming hooked after just one hit, and unlike cocaine, marijuana or alcohol, it rarely relents its hold on an addict. Moss estimated that between 96 and 98 percent of users become addicted, and said rehabilitation efforts rarely yield positive results. This means families torn asunder by methamphetamine are rarely reunited.

"There’s almost a zero success rate with meth users because the drug is so powerful," said Moss. "Most of the children we’ve seen have to be permanently placed with other relatives."

Moss said Morgan County had one of the highest rates for placing children with family members– everyone in Morgan County has an extended family nearby, it seems. Of the 24 children displaced due to their parents’ methamphetamine abuse this year, 21 were placed with family members.

But methamphetamine is causing a significant increase in the number of foster homes needed across the United States.

According to June 2003 Department of Justice data, a reported 2,023 children were living in meth labs seized in 2002. In 2000, there were a reported 216. The advent of methamphetamines has created this new generation of "drug-endangered children," as the federal nomenclature goes.

"It’s impacting the number of foster homes we need in the state," Moss said.

Moss and Thiel both said it’s possible for children to live with parents who undergo rehabilitation for alcohol or marijuana abuse. Meth is a different story, they say. Since rehabilitation efforts– which can cost tens of thousands of state-funded dollars per user– children who are separated from parents who use meth aren’t usually reunited, at least not in any long-term sense.

"All they think about is getting more meth, so the children are kind of left to fend for themselves," Moss said. "It’s just too scary to leave a child with a meth user."

"They’ve got to leave everything behind. Can they bring their little bear? No."– Gina Peek

The actual production of methamphetamine creates a toxic environment, and meth users with children don’t usually notice that their children are exposed to it. Gina Peek, a specialist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Housing and Near Environment Program, said the chemicals used in meth production are harmful on a dual scale.

"Not only do they produce the meth, but they produce the meth byproduct," Peek said.

Peek estimated that for every pound of methamphetamine, between 6 to 7 pounds of toxic waste product is created.

"It’s got to go someplace," Peek said. "It’s a bunch of toxic junk, and it can’t stay in that lab area."

Peek said some meth users made the drug in their children’s bedrooms because they think that’s the last place a police officer will look. This isn’t the only effect meth has on physical environments– cooking meth leaves little time for housekeeping. Thiel said meth home laboratories tend to reflect many of the same environmental characteristics.

"The place is always incredibly cluttered," Thiel said. "It’s always nasty. Clothing everywhere. Diapers don’t get changed. There’s no food. Ashtrays completely over. Neglect inside and out."

Removing children from a meth home is often not only for the children’s eventual well-being. Health risks run rampant in these houses, and clean-up is costly and nearly impossible. Houses where meth has been produced must be totally expunged, sheetrock and carpet and all.

"There is no method of cleaning that will clean meth completely from a structure," Peek said. "The whole meth issue really breaks my heart and it’s really disturbing at the same time."

This doesn’t just mean children can’t stay in their homes. It also means all their belongings have to.

"They’ve got to leave everything behind," Peek said. "Can they bring their little bear? No."

Peek said tell-tale signs that a meth lab exists in your neighborhood include odd trash that includes old batteries and empty cold medicine packages. Residue-lined pots on the stove also possibly indicate a meth lab.

"What you do, your children are going to pick up."– Carol Gibson

Although meth users go through continuous physical turmoil, those who have children bestow an altogether different type of turmoil on them.

"I’ve never seen anything impact lives like this has," Moss said.

One of meth’s side effects– a heightened desire for sex– means many users have unprotected intercourse that can result in pregnancy or the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. This means more children are being born to parents who have no interest in caring for them.

Another danger exists– that children may become users themselves.

"When children are in a house where their parents smoke cigarettes, they’re more likely to smoke cigarettes," said Carol Gibson, coordinator for children, youth and families at risk for the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "What you do, your children are going to pick up."

Moss and Thiel said dealing with children displaced by their parent’s methamphetamine use will grow as the drug’s larger social impact grows. Like their social precursors, so-called "crack babies," the children of meth users will have to rely on local, state and federal assistance due to their parents’ negligence.

"Children have no choice in the matter," Thiel said.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

All who heard about your son were shocked. I am sorry for your loss. I am a foster mother who cares specifically for the children born to drug abusers. There are many, public and professonal, who are not ready to accept the needs of these babies; nor are they ready to stop the manufacturers and pushers! Human rights go too far when they impact the unborn and the innocent.

Friday, October 05, 2007 11:59:00 AM  

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